If you’ve been digging for a new party idea, look no further. With the recent explosion of interest around murder mystery theaters, it’s natural for people to wonder how to host their own – after all, there’s only so many times you can see the local theater without longing for a new mystery. While you can always hire a crew to come and put on a show for you, wouldn’t it be entertaining to host the party yourself and have your friends, family, or co-workers take a stab at acting? Read on below to learn the easiest way to throw a successful murder mystery.
1| The Story Board
Your first decision will be to determine whether or not you’d like to purchase a kit or make your own. If you buy a package, most will include scripts, rules, costume ideas, and recipes.
If you choose to make your murder mystery from scratch, you’ll want to create a story that’s interesting and spooky – after all, it’s a murder mystery! When you make that story, keep in mind that you will be serving courses of food during the story, so you’ll want to have acts or separate scenes that will play out over the course of the event. You’ll want to make sure your story has characters that are fun and help fit around the clues and the crime itself. You’ll lastly wish to ensure that the end of the show will discover the whodunnit; your guests will be able to make that discovery by looking at your clues and posing questions to the characters.
A pro-tip for ensuring that your story is fun is to pick a great theme. Popular ones revolve around the 1920’s, Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Apocalypse, The Wizard of Oz, etc. Don’t be afraid to try something new or even take a poll from your guests on what they’d like to see.
2| The Scene of the Crime
You’ll next want to decide where you’re hosting the party. This can tie in conjunction with the theme and plot of the murder mystery. Keep in mind how many people are showing up; if it’s a small party, hosting at your or a friend’s house should work just fine. But if you’re making this a large event, say for co-workers or a family gathering, you can certainly rent out a venue or book a pavilion to utilize your local park. Keep in mind that you will want to decorate, and food will be served, so be mindful of any rules and restrictions that a venue or friend’s house will have.
3| The Menu
After deciding where you’ll be partying, you’ll want to start planning out the food; what’s a murder mystery dinner without dinner? You can approach this in a few ways. Either you can choose to prepare a multiple course menu that will be served over the period of the show, or you can involve other people. I’ve always felt that cooking and hosting can be a little overwhelming for one host to handle. Consider suggesting a potluck where different guests will bring different courses to help out.
4| Mr. Green with the Rope…
Props are a must. After you’ve decided on the story, start taking a look for accessories to create a more inversive setting and to leave clues. You can use older or discarded items that you have in your house, such as old clothing or decorations. You can also use everyday objects in your home such as knives for murder weapons or clues. If you need an item that you have to go out and buy, consider looking at thrift stores or garage sales for the best pricing.
5| Party Rules
As with most parties that you’ll host, you’ll want to decide who to invite; just to avoid party-poopers, try to suggest the idea to your guests first. Let those who are enthusiastic play more significant parts, the people who are more reserved can have smaller roles or merely play detective, and if someone hates the idea, feel free to invite them just to come enjoy the party and being around other people.
Once you have your guest list set up, set a date that will work for everyone, and send out invites. It’s easier on everyone if you set the time a little way into the future so everyone can prepare their costumes and characters – try suggesting that your guest’s characters are a secret so that when everyone arrives at the party, it starts off with natural character introductions.
6| The Mere Hours Before
Decide when is most convenient for you to decorate; if the party is in your home, you can take care of it the night before, but if you’re elsewhere, try spending several hours before the party decorating. Place your clues in hidden, but easily accessible locations for your guests to find; easy positions are under plates and chairs, and if people are walking around, try hiding clues in desks and under set cushions. If you’re cooking, prepare that as early as possible so that when your party-goers arrive, you can participate in the theater.
A great way to set ambiance will be setting up music to match your theme. Several apps will have themed playlists, and having music will help set the mood and avoid any awkward pauses.
When you set up the table for your guests, try having them sit in a circle or a close-knit pattern so they can conveniently discuss ideas and clues with each other. Of course, you’ll want to give them room to eat without bumping elbows, but you want to make sure they’re not shouting down a long table at one another. Have fun with the setup and consider having the place settings match the theme.
7| On With the Show!
As your guests arrive, it’s best to offer them appetizers and drinks and allow them to mingle while they wait for everyone to be present. As a host, and as the holder of knowledge, mingle with your guests and help them open up who their character is and prompt some thinking questions.
As food has been served and as scenes play out, don’t rush through them. Allow everyone ample time to discuss the mystery and enjoy the show. It’s natural for a conversation to leave the theater entirely, but try to be attentive and guide the discussion back to the murder. Try to keep everyone guessing until the end – you can either hide red herring with the clues or have your characters throw misdirecting statements around.
Once the murder has been solved, allow your guests to discuss the experience and talk through sub-plots and motives that inspired their characters. You can set up the show by having it end only when the murderer has been caught, or when everyone has become a victim of the killer.
Remember during the party, that it is exactly that – a party. Enjoy spending the time with your guests, and be as creative and unique as you’d like to be. Even if you choose to go with a purchased kit, have fun watching everyone make the characters their very own.
If you’d like to catch a few more ideas, or if you’d like to thoroughly enjoy a night out, feel free to stop by Castle of Chaos’ mystery theater for a tried and true show.
Ever thought it would be fun to play clue in real life? Now is your chance! At our Chaos Mysteries, YOU are the detective.